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Party Politics in the American System

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Doc View Post
    ...

    Also, Canada doesn't have the same right wing media machine that shapes one party nearly completely. Hannity, Limbaugh, and Carlson might as well be Republican whips. They may actually have more power than many in the party machinery.
    True enough, but there have been some attempts, though nothing has come close. National Post was sort of an earlier newspaper driven attempt. I seem to remember there was chatter some while back about Fox coming up here, too. There's also a far right website that does things like claim a mass shooting at a mosque by a far right white nationalist was actually some kind of muslim false flag operation.

    I'm not sure why, but the lack of firm traction with the general public is probably due to a bunch of reasons. Off the top of my head:
    • The national broadcaster and news corp, despite various assaults, is still fairly well regarded and does a decent enough job
    • Right or wrong, the Liberals are AKA Canada's Natural Governing Party
    • Distrust of the conservatives' motives, a sense that they are hiding their true intentions, is fairly widespread
    There's also a "Red Tory" conservative tradition up here. The big conservative party used to be called the Progressive Conservatives (the PCs!). I'm not sure what's left of this bunch as there was a bit of a massacre about 20 years ago when they amalgamated with a more conservative challenger called the Reform Party (first known as the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party--guess why they quickly changed their name). Anyway, the upstarts kind of purged the old guard PC types. But there are rumours some of them are just biding their time like the Red Death in Masque of the Red Death...

    However, it seems like the somewhat hostile takeover has recently emboldened even more radical right elements. A young conservative acquaintance of mine, who canvassed for the conservatives in our last election, told me he was really glad there was a further right splinter party. For one thing he said that's where all the "crazies" gravitated to and that made his support the conservatives mission among the Canuck masses a lot easier. Additionally, he seems pretty PC when it comes to issues of gender, sexual orientation etc. I'd like to think he's "PC" due to lingering influence of the PCs, but it could also just be that some younger folk just don't take to social conservatism so much up here.
    Last edited by Heresiologist; 08-17-2020, 09:38 AM.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Heresiologist View Post
      I'm not sure why, but the lack of firm traction with the general public is probably due to a bunch of reasons. Off the top of my head:
      • The national broadcaster and news corp, despite various assaults, is still fairly well regarded and does a decent enough job
      • Right or wrong, the Liberals are AKA Canada's Natural Governing Party
      • Distrust of the conservatives' motives, a sense that they are hiding their true intentions, is fairly widespread
      Whatever the reasons, be glad that you have no analogue. A platform for demagoguery exists only to be corrosive.

      I suspect the CBC has something to do with it. I once read a semi-academic article that made the argument that you could find the essence of Canadian identity in The Tragically Hip and hockey on the CBC. This was at a time before media fragmentation exploded, but the crux of the argument (as I remember) was people in the U.S. were really hung up on the idea that Canadian identity is formed almost exclusively in distancing itself from the U.S. However, the things that were most distinctly and unifyingly Canadian had nothing to do with the U.S., and both were badly misunderstood and badly appropriated by U. S. popular culture, processes made worse because there were no approximations to either (or the results) in the U.S.

      I think a pervasive sense of “we” lends itself to the Liberals, so it makes sense that they would be the more “natural” governing party is there is a stronger sense of national identity. Not saying that Canada isn’t diverse or anything ridiculous like that...

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Heresiologist View Post

        However, it seems like the somewhat hostile takeover has recently emboldened even more radical right elements. A young conservative acquaintance of mine, who canvassed for the conservatives in our last election, told me he was really glad there was a further right splinter party. For one thing he said that's where all the "crazies" gravitated to and that made his support the conservatives mission among the Canuck masses a lot easier. Additionally, he seems pretty PC when it comes to issues of gender, sexual orientation etc. I'd like to think he's "PC" due to lingering influence of the PCs, but it could also just be that some younger folk just don't take to social conservatism so much up here.
        Tell your conservative acquaintance to be careful. The far-right crazies were welcomed into the Republican Party for similar reasons, and they took over In less than a generation. There’s no room for measured or “intellectual” conservatism. Even G.W. Bush looks fairly moderate and measured relative to the former fringe that is now the mainstream Republican Party. It was nice thinking that that must lead to self-destruction, but the joke is on all the people who thought that was an inevitable consequence.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Doc View Post
          Tell your conservative acquaintance to be careful. The far-right crazies were welcomed into the Republican Party for similar reasons, and they took over In less than a generation. There’s no room for measured or “intellectual” conservatism. Even G.W. Bush looks fairly moderate and measured relative to the former fringe that is now the mainstream Republican Party. It was nice thinking that that must lead to self-destruction, but the joke is on all the people who thought that was an inevitable consequence.
          Oh, the aforesaid "crazies" were previously in the big tent conservative party. Then a disgruntled leadership candidate left the tent to form a further right "populist" party. I suppose the move let him stand outside the conservative tent and piss in a bit. Overall, though, the public's reaction could sort of be summed up by the phrase: "piss on those guys." They got 1.6% of the vote, took no seats, and their leader lost his seat. Still, there is talk of letting him back into the tent.

          Originally posted by EverKing View Post
          ...
          Personally, I think there continues to be some value in legislative faction but that it should remain within the Legislature. Perhaps it is more a philosophical stance but considering the idea for the Chief Executive is the unbiased application (execution) of the Law, I see no good excuse for a partisan Executive ...
          Returning to the executive power front, I remember a political science paper I wrote long ago about how Trudeau the Elder (not the Justin) managed to draw a lot more power into the hands of the Prime Minister (PM). A process that has only increased during the intervening years. I think the purpose for this is always partisan and nobody ever seems to heed the warning that the next PM will get the powers you accrue to the office.

          I guess the point is no matter the particulars of the democratic system, concentration of power is a threat.

          P.S. I do hope somebody enjoys the LBJ references. To continue the urine theme, he once grabbed one of our PMs and shouted, "You pissed on my rug!"
          Last edited by Heresiologist; 08-17-2020, 09:55 PM.

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          • #20
            Originally posted by Doc View Post
            ... I think a pervasive sense of “we” lends itself to the Liberals, so it makes sense that they would be the more “natural” governing party is there is a stronger sense of national identity ...
            Well, there is also a saying that the Liberals campaign from the left and govern from the right. It's also said we don't elect good governments, but throw out bad ones. Kind of takes the gloss off.

            The latter adage refers to the sense that once a party gets to govern they tend to get two or three terms at the helm before they get kicked out. Usually because they've gotten greedy at the public trough. So, the other party rides into power, usually on a high horse of greater transparency, reforms and responsibility. Doesn't matter that 10 or so years previous they were the piggies at the trough. The not so cosmic ballet must go on.

            And this kind of leads me to thinking that when Everking asked if Parliamentary-like Party System provide more benefit or detriment, the answer is that it's a "six of one, half a dozen of the other" type situation. Each system has its home grown threats of partisan abuse of norms and notions of "it's just not done" that can in turn lead to abuse of the powers that have been gathered into the system's pinnacle position.

            For myself, that's led to an interest in proportional representation. Despite the drawbacks I'm more against a system where somebody who commands maybe 40% of the popular vote gets to act like some kind of temporary dictator or national CEO. Even 50% (or a few points better) seems inadequate justification. The threshold for a majority should be higher. If the party doesn't have a literal majority mandate, they don't get to act like they do. If they don't have that majority, they should have to get support from members of other parties.

            Well, maybe 50% or so is okay for purely internal affairs, but two thirds majority in the case of more...
            Last edited by Heresiologist; 08-17-2020, 10:35 PM.

            Comment


            • #21
              Originally posted by Heresiologist View Post
              And this kind of leads me to thinking that when Everking asked if Parliamentary-like Party System provide more benefit or detriment, the answer is that it's a "six of one, half a dozen of the other" type situation. Each system has its home grown threats of partisan abuse of norms and notions of "it's just not done" that can in turn lead to abuse of the powers that have been gathered into the system's pinnacle position.
              That is my take as well. I think there is some benefit to Political Parties on principle. They provide a unifying body and voice for major issues and a convenient avenue for distribution of campaign moneys. On the obverse, though, there are the issues of entrenched power and corruption which any apparent voter mandates provide. The chief difficulty of this in the American system is that the parties now effectively control most--if not all--aspects of Government. Contrary to what Lincoln said we are now a Government Of the Parties, By the Parties, and For the Parties. Campaign Finance Reform, an independent commission on redistricting (removing all gerrymandering), and a Constitutional Amendment for Non-Partisanship of the President are three steps we can take to start reducing this control by the Parties.

              Originally posted by Heresiologist View Post
              For myself, that's led to an interest in proportional representation. Despite the drawbacks I'm more against a system where somebody who commands maybe 40% of the popular vote gets to act like some kind of temporary dictator or national CEO. Even 50% (or a few points better) seems inadequate justification. The threshold for a majority should be higher. If the party doesn't have a literal majority mandate, they don't get to act like they do. If they don't have that majority, they should have to get support from members of other parties.
              The problem I have with Proportional Representation is that it becomes a vote for Party by aggregate, rather than a vote for the individual locally. To simplify, let's suppose we have a national election for Congress (every two years) and GOP gains 42% of the popular vote, DNC 54%, and others 3%. By PR that would mean 182 Republican seats, 235 Democrats, and 18 Others. How then, do you distribute the representation to individual districts? Do the Parties get to select who takes a seat? Or is local representation moot in such a system in favor of the national aggregate? If so, then how can low-population areas with special and unique interests (say, Wyoming, Montana, or the Dakotas) ensure fair representation?

              I much prefer a system where we, at a local level, select our own Representatives (or Senators) as an individual rather than assigned by Party.

              "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
              --Thomas a Kempis

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by EverKing View Post
                ...
                The problem I have with Proportional Representation is that it becomes a vote for Party by aggregate, rather than a vote for the individual locally. To simplify, let's suppose we have a national election for Congress (every two years) and GOP gains 42% of the popular vote, DNC 54%, and others 3%. By PR that would mean 182 Republican seats, 235 Democrats, and 18 Others. How then, do you distribute the representation to individual districts? Do the Parties get to select who takes a seat? Or is local representation moot in such a system in favor of the national aggregate? If so, then how can low-population areas with special and unique interests (say, Wyoming, Montana, or the Dakotas) ensure fair representation?

                I much prefer a system where we, at a local level, select our own Representatives (or Senators) as an individual rather than assigned by Party.
                ...
                Distribution of representation depends on the particulars of the PR system. There are many PR systems. For our last PR referendum we had a randomly chosen 161 member citizen's commission that investigated a number of the many options and then made recommendations. Single Transferable Vote and Mixed Member Proportional ended up the top two recs.

                I don't think selection of representatives was completely party prerogative in either STV or MMP. Our proposed version of MMP gave you two votes, one for party, one for local rep. It also used multi-member ridings so the chances of you having a local representative sitting at the levers of power were increased. On the other hand, first past the post (FPTP) is winner take all and the norm is is that somebody representing a distinct minority gets 100% of the power, which, you probably know by now, is a particular bugaboo of mine.

                And that looks like a segue for an Ambrose Bierce quote:
                PRESIDENT, n. The leading figure in a small group of men of whom— and of whom only— it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for President.
                Last edited by Heresiologist; 08-18-2020, 09:24 PM.

                Comment


                • #23
                  Originally posted by Doc View Post
                  ...I suspect the CBC has something to do with it....
                  Yeah, in what was undoubtedly part of CBC efforts to keep us in line with the maple straight and narrow, some years back they had a tv series called The Greatest Canadian.

                  It was one of those vote in affairs, but the winner was Tommy Douglas, the "father" of our medicare system, but also a baptist minister who led a socialist party called the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) as well as its successor organization the New Democratic Party (NDP). Kiefer Sutherland would like to acquaint you with with Tommy Douglas by way of his Mouseland story/speech.

                  Also, Greatest Canadian number two was Terry Fox. Hope you've heard of him. Greatest Canadian number 10, Wayne Gretzky, told all his supporters to vote for Fox.

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                  • #24
                    I know about Terry Fox because of Douglas Coupland (another pretty interesting Canadian). I saw his book Terry and was interested enough to see what all the fuss was about. He lived a lot of life and made a giant impact in such a short amount of time. I know several people who have battled cancer who do not like having their struggles and the aftermaths label led “heroic,” but how else can you characterize a person like him?

                    And I still need to read the Coupland book...

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Doc View Post

                      Tell your conservative acquaintance to be careful. The far-right crazies were welcomed into the Republican Party for similar reasons, and they took over In less than a generation. There’s no room for measured or “intellectual” conservatism. Even G.W. Bush looks fairly moderate and measured relative to the former fringe that is now the mainstream Republican Party. It was nice thinking that that must lead to self-destruction, but the joke is on all the people who thought that was an inevitable consequence.
                      This is crux of the problem that the American Party system faces: that the organization of the parties encourages growth of political extremism. Both major parties, as well as the Libertarian Party of America, have show this tendency in the past few decades of gradual shift toward the extremes of their respective spectrums (spectra?). The GOP in the last 20 is a prime example of it where first the NeoCons came to dominance during the GW Bush era, followed by the growth of the Tea Party Caucus--first a semi-libertarian movement which was then high-jacked and integrated into the GOP in the form of far-right Christian Conservatism--and finally, now in the current Administration, with the growing dominance of ultra-right Nationalism. The DNC, likewise, has seen a shift from the center-left Democratic ideals of the Clinton era '90's toward the new Progressive-Left movement and the European socialistic ideals. The Libertarian Party has become dominated by a mix of the Randian school of Anarcho-Capitalists and their tinfoil hat counterparts. I think this is all a result of the "squeaky wheel" effect within the parties amplifying the loud voice of the minority extremes during the primary contests.

                      Which brings us to...

                      Originally posted by Doc View Post
                      I suspect the CBC has something to do with it.
                      More so, in the US, where political debate is increasingly governed by pundits under the guise of journalism in the control of less than a handful of media conglomerates with very real interests in advancing a particular narrative for the sake of subscribers and advertising dollars. Fox, MSNBC, CNN, all examples. Even the nominally independent Public Radio (NPR) has really moved further Left in reaction to their personal distaste of the current Administration. Political Journalism is all-but dead in the current news media feeding sensationalism and division to the American people--who, sadly, are largely too unaware of the broader world to notice or even care.

                      Personally, I cannot in good conscience align myself with any particular Party as I have found all them to become more destructive to the American political machine as I've grown older. The ideals and promise of the American Experiment have largely been forgotten with the Parties instead telling us what it should be rather than the People trying to achieve what it could be.

                      As for my personal leanings (perhaps a topic for another discussion but worth laying out here for transparency), as I get older and more mature in my world-view I find myself increasingly leaning toward centrist ideas based on libertarian ideals--Geo-Libertarianism intrigues me, although I am not entirely sold on it. The trouble with the Libertarian Right is the surrender to corporations while both the mainstream Right and Left expect us to surrender self-determination to the State. Ultimately, I think the greatest individual freedoms can be achieved in a balanced system free from many of burdens that hold most Americans down. I like the idea of small-state that still has the power to provide basic human needs (healthcare, education, minimum basic income) and prevent corporate dominance. I guess it boils down the idea that government exists at the will of the People and primary to ensure a balanced playing field for the population rather than to dictate morality and control behaviour.

                      "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
                      --Thomas a Kempis

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Originally posted by EverKing View Post


                        Which brings us to...


                        More so, in the US, where political debate is increasingly governed by pundits under the guise of journalism in the control of less than a handful of media conglomerates with very real interests in advancing a particular narrative for the sake of subscribers and advertising dollars. Fox, MSNBC, CNN, all examples. Even the nominally independent Public Radio (NPR) has really moved further Left in reaction to their personal distaste of the current Administration. Political Journalism is all-but dead in the current news media feeding sensationalism and division to the American people--who, sadly, are largely too unaware of the broader world to notice or even care.

                        Personally, I cannot in good conscience align myself with any particular Party as I have found all them to become more destructive to the American political machine as I've grown older. The ideals and promise of the American Experiment have largely been forgotten with the Parties instead telling us what it should be rather than the People trying to achieve what it could be.
                        I read an interesting article where the main argument was that the Republican party is a great opposition party, but a lousy governing party. They have been a minority party for much of their existence, so part of the party's foundation lies in just being against something. That doesn't lead to good governance when the party controls the levers of power. Moreover, the oppositional position is easy to take when it is constantly amplified by right wing media punditry only loosely disguised as political journalism. Most of Carlson, et. al's ratings come from people who want to know what to be against, so they can figure out what they are for. That is also good for ratings.

                        Obama's speech last night also spoke to the your point about how the possibilities of the U.S. experience is no longer embraced, sacrificed at the alter of rigid dogma about what the U.S. experience should be.

                        And to your point, democrats are very guilty of this process, too. I like the results a little better (sometimes) and there is not comparable spin machine to Fox News for the democrats (no matter how much people try to make CNN and MSNBC boogeymen).

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          I'm prone to agree regarding the Republican Party being better in opposition than leadership. The trouble is that the current trends in the Democratic Party are taking it down a similar road--or perhaps worse in some ways. The modern progressive-left movement prevalent in the party and even more so in popular culture/society at large has a stink of puritanical zealotry with a growing undercurrent of totalitarianism. Not the fault of the Progressive movement, mind you, but a troublesome result of divisive identity politics taking over the masses. As we've said elsewhere, the coming election isn't about what a Democratic administration may bring to the future of the country but about the fact that a Biden/Harris ticket simply isn't a Trump/Pence ticket. The possible result, then, will be that we may have two Parties which operate in opposition rather than in dynamic creation.

                          I have some thoughts around identity politics as well but those are a topic for another place.
                          "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
                          --Thomas a Kempis

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                          • #28
                            The CBC has something to do with it, sure. But the fact we elect a local representative and don't directly elect our Prime Minister (even if a lot of people think that's how it works) is another part of it.

                            But I think the biggest something is from my original point, namely that Canada does not have a two party duopoly. Canada's had a variety of relatively short lived 3rd parties at provincial and federal levels, plus a powerful and fairly long lived 3rd party that operates in only one province (note: powerful because of large provincial population). More significantly, the Liberal/Conservative duopoly was soundly broken almost 90 years ago when a democratic socialist party broke into the system. Its more moderate descendant party is still active today.

                            As a result, though, again, not a direct result, Canada has medicare and it's political death for a party to explicitly declare they want to get rid of it. The political culture is also different because there's a history of those democratic socialists, and their later moderated successor party, showing they can run the provinces as well as (and sometimes as poorly as) the Liberals and Conservatives. The biggest budget surplus in my province's history was courtesy the leftmost party. Their popularity after WW2 and the following few decades also meant the Liberals leaned more left in order to steal some of their fire.

                            Consequently, I don't think there's much talk from any but the rightest of conservative pundits about extremism in the Democratic party. What I have heard a number of times, though, is that based solely on his policies, Obama could fit in with Canada's conservatives.

                            The sense I get is that in Canada and the US the Liberals and Democrats, respectively, still try to straddle the centre. They each have their left and right wings. Their right wings are right of centre. Overall, they are primarily centrist, but the levers of power within them are primarily in their right sides.

                            The Conservatives and Republicans are different. For one thing, they are not centrists.
                            Last edited by Heresiologist; 08-22-2020, 01:16 AM.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Heresiologist View Post
                              As a result, though, again, not a direct result, Canada has medicare and it's political death for a party to explicitly declare they want to get rid of it. The political culture is also different because there's a history of those democratic socialists, and their later moderated successor party, showing they can run the provinces as well as (and sometimes as poorly as) the Liberals and Conservatives. The biggest budget surplus in my province's history was courtesy the leftmost party. Their popularity after WW2 and the following few decades also meant the Liberals leaned more left in order to steal some of their fire.

                              Consequently, I don't think there's much talk from any but the rightest of conservative pundits about extremism in the Democratic party. What I have heard a number of times, though, is that based solely on his policies, Obama could fit in with Canada's conservatives.

                              The sense I get is that in Canada and the US the Liberals and Democrats, respectively, still try to straddle the centre. They each have their left and right wings. Their right wings are right of centre. Overall, they are primarily centrist, but the levers of power within them are primarily in their right sides.

                              The Conservatives and Republicans are different. For one thing, they are not centrists.
                              Survey data shows pretty consistently that the majority of the US population supports a lot of ideas that are pretty far left, but only when they are removed from the context of being leftist. Social Security and Medicare are enormously popular, but would get zero support from today’s Republicans, and little and only tepid support from the majority of Democrats if they were being considered today.

                              Part of this is the Democratic move to the center that you point out. I see it as starting with Bill Clinton, who consciously moved that way as a political strategy. He took the party with him. This was the same time that the present right wing outrage machine was just getting started, digging into the idea of two-sides to everything, and not conservative was definitively liberal. The middle to middle right became somehow the Democratic party’s lane. Nixon probably have been a Democrat in this climate. Reagan and the first Bush would have been pretty moderate. FDR probably wouldn’t even have the Bernie Sanders role in the Democratic Party.

                              This is also why the U.S has been center right for the last 30 years or so, even under Democratic presidents. I do wonder if Joe Biden is elected how the party will move. He has pretty quietly proposed a fairly progressive agenda, without touching the ideological third rail issues, or at least using any terminology that sets off the ideological alarms.

                              And to rerun to one of EverKing’s points, when I wonder about how Biden might move the party (and I know how Clinton did), maybe it is dangerous that we see the president as the leader of a party as well as chief executive. It’s almost (almost) as authoritarian as people fear about Trump.

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                I just read a (non-academic) article about polarization and dangers of partisanship. Pretty interesting as it
                                relates to views in COVID-19, but also interesting in what is says about the creation of dual (and dueling) realities.

                                https://www.salon.com/2020/08/23/the...ities_partner/

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